A detective seeking answers. A man that became a mystery. Slaves looking for freedom. Police looking for order. A world dying to be saved. A future haunted by it’s past. The moral of the story is that the truth won’t always save us, but it’s better than living even the most elaborate lie. These are the themes Blade Runner 2049 treads on, but the one golden thread that ties it to its predecessor is that these are movies that go miles deep rather than play it safe in the shallow end.
Rather than merely making another installment of a post-modern hybrid story that’s futuristic neo-noir, this is a movie that spreads itself out like the horizon but still goes as deep as an ocean. What makes it work is that the movie has a lot of heart and is very (pardon the irony) human. Beyond that, the story hinges itself on minimalistic dialogue and subtle performances (for the most part) in order to create an opportunity for audiences to bask in the bombastic visuals. The film is a masterful exercise in the aesthetic world building that only cinema has to offer as an art form.
In the beginning, we have what seems to be a very simple story. Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner for the LAPD in the year 2049 sent out to “retire” (aka murder) replicants (androids) hiding among humans. K’s boss Madam (Robin Wright) assigns him to find the mysterious ex-Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) thirty years after he’s disappeared. Deckard ran away with a replicant he was “in love” with and is thought to hold the secrets to unlocking the psychology of why replicants want to be human. This brings a motley cast of characters out of the shadows to not only find Deckard and what knowledge he might have during a growing replicant resistance but to uncover K’s mysterious past.
Regardless of what you think of it, the movie is an absolute marvel from a technical standpoint and an expertly executed crash course in tone, atmosphere, and visual delivery. There’s no denying the supreme skill and impeccable craftsmanship behind almost every aspect of the film. From the stunning cinematography from Roger Deakins, the immaculate costume design, the vivid color palettes in the lighting and the feast of visual textures in the set design, it’s a very visceral experience on every level.
Director Denis Villeneuve has been blazing an impressive trail for himself by making films with morally ambiguous characters that aren’t black and white, but grey. Whether you’re watching Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario or Arrival, Villeneuve has quite a deft hand in telling stories where no one and nothing is what it seems, but the magic is always in the mystery.
Ryan Gosling manages to bring a ton of depth and emotion to a leading character that is emotionally stifled and could have very easily fallen into perilous cliché. Instead, he manages to create Officer K into a compelling protagonist with an entire life behind him as he heads into unchartered territory. Harrison Ford returns with a powerhouse performance as Rick Deckard by not being hammy or trying to soak up as much screen time as he can. Although Officer K is the lead character, the story is definitely about Deckard and the future of the replicants.
The ironic thing regarding Blade Runner is how it manages to make a story about androids trying to feel human ask a lot of huge questions without being pretentious enough to pretend it has the answers. The entire movie has a hypnotic and fascinatingly dream-like quality to it that proves if you respect audiences enough to give them room to digest a multi-layered story, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Like any great noir story, as one mystery is solved, it ends with the beginning of another. Whatever you do, DO NOT miss this film because it’s one of the landmark movies of the year.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date: October 6, 2017 (United States)
Running time: 163 minutes
Check out an official Blade Runner 2049 movie trailer